A biblically-grounded understanding of disability sees a disability as a display of God’s glory. Accordingly, by the sovereign work of God, that which has come to pass, must of theological necessity be the best of all possible worlds. Therefore, even disability necessarily displays the perfection of God’s purposes. Further, God through his Word shows a particular delight in displaying his eternal power and goodness through those things considered weak and of little account by this world’s standards. Disability then, in a peculiar fashion shines forth the radiance of his glory.
God’s Work of Creation and the Display of His Glory – Exodus 4:11
The context of Exodus 4:11 is Moses’ interview with Yahweh at the burning bush. Despite the miraculous show of God’s presence and clear instructions of what he wants Moses to do, Moses questions the wisdom of God’s plan in sending him to Egypt. To each of Moses’ questions God answers by declaring that he is the one who will accomplish his purposes (Exod 3:12; 14; 4:2; 4:12). Moses asserts that he is not significant enough to be sent (3:11), does not know enough (he does not even know God’s name) (3:13), complains that he is not compelling enough (4:1), and reminds God that he has a speech impairment (heavy of tongue) and therefore should he not be disqualified (4:10). According to Brevard Childs, “God’s answer comes in the form of a wisdom saying, closely akin to Ps. 94:9, such that, the question evaporates before the reality of Yahweh as the creator God” (Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus, A Critical Theological Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox, 1974), 78-79.)
So, God asks Moses, “Who has made man’s mouth?” (4:11). God brings Moses back to creation; to the undeniable reality of God’s creation. God formed Adam out of dust and endowed him with all his faculties. There is not one part of creation that God did not create. Not one part did God leave to another to make. God is supreme over all the works of creation, but he takes Moses even further—God did not create man once and then step aside. Every human is a unique act of God’s creative fiat. Each one created with the same sovereign freedom with which he formed Adam.
“Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (4:11). The passage is beautiful in its simplicity. Who else other than the sole creator could make man in all his varied giftings and deprivations? But that is just where some have a problem—they can affirm that God made man’s mouth but not that he made them mute, God can be the one who makes the seeing but not the blind. So Walter Kaiser asserts, “While God is not blamed for directly creating any defects, yet wise providence in allowing these deprivations as well as divine goodness in bestowing their ordinary functions mirrors God’s ability to meet any emergency Moses may have suggested” (Walter C. Kaiser, Exodus, in vol. # 2 of The Expositors Bible Commentary, ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017), 47). While such a perspective would seem to let God “off the hook” for directly creating disability, it begs the question as to whose will is he “allowing” in his “wise providence?” If not his, then whose? Such a view misses the mark as to what exactly God is saying about disability. It seems reasonable to suppose that God acts at every point for the maximization of his glory. If this is so, then disability at any one time is the most glorious act of creation. Disability is not a failure in the system or some second choice that must be born with difficulty and patience but is the purposeful and special display of God’s glory. This, of course, radically changes one’s understanding of disability. Walter Brueggemann says, “Here speaks the creator God, the one who makes, orders, and dispatches all of creation. Moses’ pitiful excuse disregarded his own status as creature, and the fact that all of his life must be referred to the creator God who endows and invests human persons as is expedient for God” (Walter Brueggemann, Exodus, The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 1 (Abingdon, 1994), 67). God acts at all times to what is “expedient” for his purpose and will. He will always accomplish what he purposes and creates in accordance to his goals. It is therefore important to recognize that the seeming “negative” aspects of creation, that is disability and deprivations, are as much needful and necessary as all other parts of creation.
What is further revealed in Moses’ interview with God at the burning bush is that Moses misses the mark when he thinks that God’s call to go down to Pharaoh has to do with him and his gifts, disabilities, or experiences. John Durham writes,
What Moses and Aaron are to say and how they are to say it, in the accomplishment of Yahweh’s purpose, will be to Yahweh’s credit, not to theirs. At the crucial moments he will be with them, working out his purpose. This underlying theme is of course the key to v. 11. Yahweh has made the mouth of man, and Yahweh withholds or gives the ability to communicate. . . . Moses specific claim of inability is irrelevant to the subject of Yahweh’s overall control and purpose. (John Durham, Exodus, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 3 (Waco, TX: Word, 1987), 50).
God’s call to Moses is complete in itself, meaning that he will provide everything needed for its accomplishment. Call, gifting, and provision all go together—no one ever receives one without the others. God will accomplish his purposes in a way that brings the most glory to his name.
Rev. Eric Nelson, SHN President & Founder